Climbing Footnote

While writing my previous posting about mountain climbing in the Canadian Rockies it jogged my memorie about my former brother-in-law and climbing partner. About two years after we climbed Mt. Edith my B/I/L was climbing in the nearby mountains and his partner slipped and fell to his death.

A few years after that, he again was climbing in the area, slipped and fell, landing on a lower rock ledge with two broken ankles The terriane was very steep and his climbing parterner could not help him so he climbed down for assistance. The injured climber remained on the mountain by himself all night and in pain.

The next morning trained park crew climbers reached him and realized that they would need a helicopter for the rescue. Keep in mind this was in the late 60’s and fewer copters were available. The rescuers acquired a helicopter which was on rental to another company nearby. When it arrived it was found the mountain slope was too steep and they could not get close enough to the injured man without their rotor hitting the rocks.

With much hard labor and difficuly they hauled logs and timber up to the injured man and constructed a platform for the helicopter to land on. When they tried to lift him off the mountain the second time it was found that there still was not enough room to prevent the rotors from hitting the rock.

Again with much labor and time they dismantled the landing platform and moved the pieces some distance down the the mountainside where there was more room, and reconstructed the platform. Darkness was fast approaching so it was important to get him down and off the mountain

With considerable care, time, and difficulty they lowered the injured man down the slope to the platform. With inches to spare, the helicopter landed partly on the platform and recovered the injured man.

Once he was safely in the hospital and recovering, they sent the injured climber the bill for the helicopter which had been taken from the original lease. It was not a cheap adventure.

Mt. Edith – Canadian Rockies

In the summer of 1958 we started climbing a little before 8 am. The Bow River Valley was still very misty but the weather for the day was promising. My brother-in-law who was a geologist and an amateur rock climber, invited me to go with him to ascend Mt. Edith near Banff, Alberta, which is located in Banff National Park, Canada.

It was considered to be an easy climb and no climbing gear or equipment would be required. We each carried a camera, some water, and a few snacks. Initially, when we started climbing, we stayed together but that soon proved to make climbing harder as we always seemed to be waiting on each other to get out of the way. We soon slowly moved apart until fifty to a hundred feet separated us horizontally. We climbed at about the same rate, so we could always see and hear each other.

View of town, Banff, Alberta

The plan was to climb to the top, take photographs of the valley on the back side of the mountain and be back down before it got dark. This first photo was taken early in the climb and shows my view to my right. Mt. Edith is to my left and a lower slope is in view and it shows the early angle of the climb of about 45 degrees.

The early morning humidity continued to hang in the valley so the quality of the photos was not great. The town of Banff sits to the extreme left middle of the photo, just this side of the small mountain known as Tunnel Mountain.

Climbing above the tree line

We eventually climbed above the tree line and it became harder to distinguish distance and height because we had no well known objects such as trees to use as a gauge. Everywhere we looked we saw various shades of grey rock. Soon the steepness of the climb increased and we were left clinging to the rocky side of the mountain and time seemed to pass slowly.

The previous photo was taken from the mountain we were climbing. The mountain and valley to my right had few if any paths or trails and was very inaccessible. No one lives or works in these surroundings. During the entire climb we rarely stopped for a rest as we did not wish to get stuck on the mountain during the night. Once in a while a projection of rock or a steep cliff would block our view of each other and it made you feel as if you were the only person in the world.

As we climbed we focused on the rock right in front of as we constantly searched for hand and foot holds. Much of the rock was loose so care had to be taken to grab something solid. The higher we climbed the steeper the slope became. Snow remained in the valleys and crevices but not on the slope we were on.

A world of rock and snow.

About half way up Mt. Edith all vegetation ceased and we were surrounded with nothing but rock and snow. It became very hard to judge heights or distances as we had no points of reference to what was normal. When we were at a point that we felt was close to the peak we noticed a unusual square bolder which appeared to be about the size of a small car. It looked as if it was about a city block away but no matter how long we climbed it grew in size very slowly. When we finally stood alongside the rock it was as big as a two story apartment building and yet the mountain peak still seemed no closer.

While the peak in the upper right of the above photo belongs to another mountain, it is similar in many ways to the peak we were climbing. We still climbed with our hands and feet but it was much steeper. A person standing on the other peak to the right would appear to be just a dot.

The higher we climbed the more the view opened up to us and we began to see other mountain ranges all around us. There was so much to see it was difficult to take it all in.

As we neared the peak we began to get a view of the valley behind our mountain. It was then that we realized that our mountain had two peaks and we were not on the tallest one. It was with great difficulty that we plodded across a ridge that connection them and climbed the tallest one.

The top of the mountain was about ten feet across but it felt like a postage stamp. Neither one of us had the courage to stand upright to take any pictures as the rock fell away steeply on all sides and we felt the slightest breeze would blow us off. The best we could do was to stay on our knees to take photos. We were mesmerized at the view that lay around us for miles and miles.

It was noon when we reached the top. The mountain we were on was about 9,000 feet heigh but since we started the climb at about 4 ,000 feet above sea level it was safe to say our climb had taken us about a mile heigh.

The trip back down the mountain was an entirely new experience as we now faced away from the mountain side at empty space, all the way down to the tiny thread of the Bow River. Each and every step had to be taken carefully as one slip would result in a catastrophe. As time passed our legs, and particularly our knees began to give out. The repetitive motion of each step was tiring and our overall strength was failing. Within sight of our vehicle we found it necessary to sit down and move down the slope in a crablike fashion.

The trip down the mountain took four hours so the total climb amounted to eight hours. I was about 23 years old while my partner was a couple of years older. Needless to say we were both in excellent health.

Some weeks later, when I was on the opposite side of the Bow River Valley I got a photo of the mountain peak we had climbed. I think if I had seen this view before we made the climb I might have looked for a less challenging mountain. I am not sorry I climbed it but I would not do it again.

Wind Bound – part two

As I headed in the direction of the narrows, which was to my left, the wind and waves continued to increase. In this photo the wave tops were beginning to turn white and the water started to climb onto the left side of the canvas. A photo never does justice to rough stormy waves.

I had to keep the nose of the canoe directly into the waves and make sure I did not end up broadside to the waves or I would have lost control. The island directly ahead and the one to the extreme left marked the opening I was heading for. The closer I came to the narrows the rougher the water got and the taller the waves. The wind was trying to push the water into the narrowing gap so my route kept getting worse.

While I still had some control, I dug out my camera and took a photo of the nose of the canoe as it was heading down into the trough of a wave. The following photo shows the bow on the top of a wave. During this time I was trying to angle to the left to get through the narrows but making sure I was nosing into the waves.

Shortly after the last photo was taken a large waive came over the bow and rushed down the length of the canoe, then struck me in the chest. Once it was passed me it buried the motor and choked it off. The canoe immediately lost headway and started to swing to the left. I had to twist around in my seat to grab the starter cord and get the motor restarted.

I quickly regained control and steered nose first into the waves but I could see even larger waves heading my way. The next big wave had no trouble in climbing over the bow and soaking me to the top of my head. At the same time it buried the motor and choked it off. This time all efforts to restart the motor failed and I had to dig out the paddle and steer the canoe into the wind.

At this point I was starting to consider I was going to have to dig out the life jacket and start swimming for shore. There was nothing else I could do but keep paddling into the wind and creep forward to the narrows. As neared it I realized it took at least two hours of non stop paddling until I was in the mouth of the narrows. From that point on I angled over to the island on the left and got into shallow water filled with reeds.

After about another half hour I was able to reach the shore and drag myself and the canoe up onto the rocks. It was obvious that the storm was going to continue for some time so I made camp and climbed into the sleeping bag. When I awoke the next morning the rain had let up but the waves were as big as ever.

At this point I accepted the fact I was “Wind bound” and I was going to have to wait for the wind and waves to calm down before I went anywhere. Two days later conditions had improved and I had had enough canoeing and camping in the rain to do me until next spring. The trip home was uneventful and the sun was shinning when I got close to home. For a few days after I got home I was asked how my trip had gone but all I could say was fine, fine. After all the most important part was that I had survived.

Frenchman’s Narrows – Part 1 of 2.

August 1974, while living in Kenora, Ontario, I decided to take a canoe trip far out in the Lake of the Woods to spend time amongst the islands in places I have never visited. I planned to go alone and by canoe and get far away from civilization and the daily rat race.

I was going into an uninhabited region with large expanses of open water, know for high winds and large waves. Common sense dictated that I had to take special steps to guarantee my safety. I owned a 16 ft. fiber glass canoe that had served me well for over 20 years but it could be easily swamped by large waves. I took an old canvass tent and trimmed it to fit the top of the canoe then fastened it down securely all around the upper edges. I designed a special skirt in the area where I sat, that would tie snugly around my chest and keep the water out.

Because I planned to go about 50 miles I attached my small 1 1/2 horsepower outboard motor to the left rear of the canoe. Long before the departure date I tested the equipment and discovered that the motor had a tendency to splash water into the rear of the canoe. That problem was solved by adding a splash guard between the motor and the side of the canoe.

The first day the weather was great and I enjoyed traveling around the islands and at no time did I see another boat, person, or cottage. I brought sandwiches for lunch so I was able to keep traveling south, leaving Kenora and the north shore far behind. When I stopped for supper at a small island, and what with all the fresh air and exercise, I fell asleep by the campfire. About an hour later I was jerked awake by the crash of lightning and thunder right over my head. I jumped up and set up my tent and gathered all my equipment inside just as the rain started to fall. The canoe was pulled up on the rocky shore and turned over.

I had traveled about ten miles as the crow flies, but much more by navigating around all the islands. I was happy to go to bed early as I wanted to get fresh start in the morning. It rained all night but I was dry and secure because I had a fairly new four man tent.

In the morning the rain had stopped, I broke camp, and was quickly back in my canoe and heading south. The terrain was changing from numerous islands, to wide open expanses of water. The sky was getting cloudy and overcast and the wind was beginning to pick up. The rain started up in the distance and I could see it heading my way and stirring up the surface of the water. I obviously was heading right into a severe storm that was coming directly at me from Frenchman’s Narrows. I had to get off the lake and to shore before the full force of the storm reached me.

Part II – “Wind Bound” to follow.

Moose Crossing

In the spring of 1963 I was employed as an Insurance Adjuster in Northern Ontario and received a phone call about a truck accident that occurred on the Trans-Canada Highway, a number of miles east Port Arthur. It has since joined the City of Fort William and now they are both known as Thunder Bay.

When I arrived, the Ontario Provincial Police were on the scene, and the driver, who survived, was being interviewed. Eventually I learned the truck was driving east on The Trans-Canada Highway and as he came around the long curve shown in the above photo he discovered a cow moose and her calf standing on the double line in the middle of the road.

By driving on the gravel shoulder on the right hand side of the road, he managed to miss hitting them with the front of the truck. Unfortunately the rear tires of the trailer went over the edge of the embankment. The heavy load of equipment on the trailer dragged the trailer down the slope and pulled the truck down with it. The truck, trailer and cargo rolled down the steep slope, but came to a stop right side up.

In this photo the truck can be seen at the bottom of the slope and the trailer tires track can be seen to the right of the bent road marker. Once he crawled out of the badly damaged cab, the driver scrambled up the slope and flagged down some help.

The cargo had to be salvaged first, before the truck and trailer were hauled out of the ditch. Fortunately an empty low bed truck came by with a heavy duty winch on the back and the recovery work began.

This highways runs along the north shore of Lake Superior and contains countless curves and hills that challenge most drivers. Most of the small town are fifty to sixty miles apart, separated by miles of woods.

The driver was lucky to have survived. When last seen, the mother moose and her calf crossed the road and headed into the endless wilderness, happy to leave civilization behind.

Restarting my Blog in 2020

In the first half of 2019 my health was poor and I had no desire to work on my blog. In July of 2019 I received a new artificial heart valve and my health has improved to the point I am looking forward to getting back to writing. The new valve has resulted in improved oxygen flow to my body and allows me to be more active. It has increased my life expectancy to about five years, so I have a good chance of reaching 90 years of age.

Watch for a new post and thanks for following my blog.